The Vault

An Overview of Post-Laminectomy Syndrome and Treatment Options
February 6, 2017
Spinal Stenosis and Treatment Options
February 15, 2017

An Overview of Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN) and Treatment Options

Postherpetic Neuropathy (PHN) is a condition that occurs because of complications from shingles. It usually begins when the blistered areas of skin form scabs, but can happen in places with no skin disturbance.  PHN causes nerve inflammation that produces pain signals long after the shingles rash disappears, possibly due to the formation of scar tissue. Individuals with the condition can experience severe unprompted pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, or no sensation at all. PHN occurs more often in people over the age of 60, especially those with shingles in their family history. The ailment can last three months or more after skin disruptions have healed, with the symptoms gradually easing over a longer timeframe.

The primary symptoms of PHN include:

  • Tingling, burning, shooting pain
  • Sharp or stabbing sensations that are intermittent
  • Constant burning or gnawing feelings
  • Mild to severe skin discomfort where the shingles rash was present

People with PHN can also have difficulty wearing clothes due to the significant sensitivity of the healed rash locations.

PHN is diagnosed by a physician based on the individual’s health history, physical assessment, and the presence of current symptoms. The treatment plan is usually started with a combination of medications such as:

  • Anti-depressants
  • Traditional pain killers
  • Anti-consultants
  • Strong painkillers
  • Creams
  • Medication patches
  • Antihistamines to help control itch
  • Anesthetic injections specifically designed to numb nerve pain

Certain anti-viral drugs taken soon after shingles begin appear to help reduce severity and duration

The physician may also prescribe a TENS unit, which will send electrical signals to the nerves that will prevent pain impulses from being transmitted to the brain. Using cold packs on the affected areas and wearing loose fitting comfortable close may give temporary relief.  Learning effective coping strategies can also be beneficial.

Avoiding shingles altogether may be the wisest solution. People who choose to undergo vaccination have been shown to have a 50% less chance of getting the illness.

If you have PNH and would like to discuss available treatment options, please call us at either our New Braunfels or Seguin offices.

Comments are closed.